Sunday, June 17, 2012

Open Letter: Freddie's Cash Mob

by Beau Cadiyo

I have, with great respect and admiration, followed the work of my classmate, colleague, confidante and close friend Andrew Samtoy during his quest to spread Cash Mobs around the world.  His struggles, triumphs and willingness to do the right thing, whatever the cost, in expanding localism and communities has touched many and, while he is far too modest to say it, it was only by his immense capacity for hard work, Herculean efforts, natural leadership ability, roguish charm, silver tongue, stellar character and dashing good looks that Cash Mobs has spread so far, so quickly. 

Thus, when I learned Freddie's was closing again, I called him immediately. 

I'll give you a moment to process that.  Yes.  Freddie's is closing.  Again

The importance of Freddie's to Cleveland cannot be understated.  Besides being a long-time pillar of our barbecue community, Freddie's serves a Polish Boy that Esquire Magazine called one of the top sandwiches in America, and it received this accolade back when Cleveland's blossoming food scene was still merely a bud.  It closed before; the fact that it is closing - again - means that one of the real, true Cleveland restaurants is going away for good. 

In addition, the Polish Boy is critical to our city's heritage and history, as it is one of the few places in the country where such a beautiful beast could have emerged.  The kielbasa comes from the Eastern Europeans; the French Fries from the Western Europeans; coleslaw was enjoyed by the rich industrialists in the early 20th century; and the barbecue sauce from the Great Migration.  It is difficult to explain how unlikely this combination actually is from an historical perspective.  The Polish Boy is the one true Cleveland food, and the fact that Freddie's is closing means that one of the best in the city will soon be no more. 

Therefore I, Beau Jesus Cadiyo, am announcing a Cash Mob.  Andrew has graciously agreed to assist me in organizing this venture.  It will be on Saturday, June 23, 2012 from 2-10 p.m. 

We harbor no illusions about our ability to save Freddie's; by 1 July it will be no more.  There is no "reverse" gear, no path back from the precipice; the ship has launched, the trigger has been pulled.  This Cash Mob is not about "saving" Freddie's from destruction.  It is, however, about being exposed to one of the greatest sandwiches in these United States, and thus the world.  It is about making sure that we imprint on our memories what Freddie's tasted like, and, when we taste other Polish Boys, reminding ourselves and each other what excellence actually tastes like.  It is also about being able to tell your children that you were there, and then telling them that they don't really know what real excellence is, because back in my day. 

Get a large Polish Boy next Saturday.  Get two.  Eat it.  Then tweet me and tell me it's not the most amazing thing you've ever had so I can call you a liar and challenge you to a cage fight. 

I suppose I do wish Freddie's was staying open, but I know what Andrew would tell me if he heard me casually mention it over a campfire:

What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Cadiyo? No, my fair cousin;
If it is mark’d to close, we are enow
To our community's loss; and if to live,
The fewer sandwiches, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one month more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for bread,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my turkey eat;
Such poultry things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet Polish Boys,
I am the most offending soul alive.
Rather proclaim it, Cadiyo, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this mob,
Let him depart; his passport to W. 25th shall be made,
And tokens for convoy put into his purse;
We would not eat in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to eat with us.
This day will be call’d the feast of Freddie's.
He that eats this day, and goes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Freddie's.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Freddie's.”
Then will he strip his shirt and show his barbecue stains,
And say “These stains I had on Freddie's day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What things he ate that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Andre the Wheeler, Samtoy and Cadiyo-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Freddie Freddie shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that eats his Polish Boy with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in Cleveland now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That ate with us upon Saint Freddie's day.

Yes, that is what he would say, and I would be chagrined.

I will see you next Saturday.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Harp

(216) 939-0200

4408 Detroit Ave Map.c03a5d6
Cleveland, OH 44113

It’s hard to just get a burger these days.  I mean, it seems like every burger in town has a pretty predictable set of ingredients:
  • Grass-fed beef;
  • Aged, locally-sourced cheddar cheese;
  • Smoked applewood bacon;
  • Some variety of cured onions;
  • Heirloom tomatoes and organic lettuce;
  • Artisinal roll. 
Seriously, go into any “foodie” place, the kind of restaurant where bloggers take pictures of their food with DSLR cameras that they leave on Auto, and see how many of these you can tick off.  It’s likely that the menu will mention each of these items, and the waiter will, if well-trained, emphasize them in his sales speech.  We’re in a sort of Cold War-style burger race now, and the only advantages to be gained are in incremental variations – organic poppyseed rolls, or specialty onions, or restaurant-grown produce, or if the chef brought the cow to your table before slaughtering it and grinding up its meat, perhaps leaving the ear on your table as a trophy. 
So it’s nice to see a place ignore these Burger Wars and just grill beef, put it together, and trust that it will be fine.  The operative word there is “grill.”  The burger at the Harp was fine – it was disassembled so I could add all of the produce and condiments I desired.  Actually, come to think of it, that’s the first time in a while where the restaurant didn’t assume that they knew best how to make the most delicious burger and that I would love whatever they put together.  It was a good burger – the bread soaked up beef juices, the produce was fresh, the cheese was tasty.  What set it apart, though, was the last few bites: on one of the ends of the clearly hand-formed patty was a charred bit, still touched with flame. 
And that’s what restaurants have forgotten.  In their quest to make the most special burger with the most special tastes, they lost the idea that a burger starts out with flame applied to flesh, and that this alchemy still matters to consumers.  The Harp hasn’t forgotten, though, and that’s why their burgers, prepared in the traditional manner, are suddenly special and have suddenly won the Burger Wars.  
 The Harp on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Virtue Feed and Grain

106 S Union Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
by Beau Cadiyo
Back in January or February of 2000, I was in a supermarket in Cardiff, Wales.  I was studying in Cardiff and a girl in one of my literature classes was shopping in the same market – brunette, dark skinned with green eyes, half-Italian, yacht.  She came up and we started chatting about books in the aisle, and then paid, and then talked some more outside, and then she invited me back to her place for tea.  Once in her apartment, she put the kettle on, and then we looked at some pictures from her life, and then we were sitting on her bed, and then we had more tea, and then I left.  In retrospect all I had to do was make a move.  The problem wasn’t my not knowing what to do; it was that I didn’t even realize what sort of situation I was in.  It was like being in front of an apple tree, and starving, but not knowing that apples are edible.  Oh man, I could have eaten. 
The Indigo Girls have a song called Watershed, with the line, “Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh.”  For me it is the opposite.  Every five years or so I look back on my life and think of these moments and experience a deep, profound sadness.  It’s usually temporary, but it usually makes me cry.  I feel – acutely – the lost opportunities, the chances missed, the girls not bedded, the words not said, the papers not written and the books not read.  I mourn, more than anything, the fact that I could have done more and that I didn’t.  I’m not only getting older, but it’s not going to get better; there’s little or nothing for me to live for if I can’t take advantage of the opportunities right in front of my face.  Kids – kids are a reason to live, they’re a reason to keep going.  Kids work. 
I don’t have kids. 
Not that I want them – I don’t, not right now and probably not ever.  If anything, they might make my life more satisfying, but they’d also prevent me from taking advantage of opportunities that are out there.  Yes, no kids for me. 
Today, though, it is fear of age and extreme mourning of what could be interpreted as a misspent youth.  Someone once told me that part of my problem was that I grew up too early – that I never had time to be young because I was always too busy becoming old.  I was 20 going on 60.  Now, though, all I want to do is go back twelve years, thirteen years, and live that time over again. 
The curse of experience is that you know how badly you screwed up. 
This whole line of thinking is, of course, foolish.  I can eat apple pie for breakfast if I want to because I am an adult, with a job (knock on wood), and I have money to buy apple pie for breakfast if I want it, and the freedom to eat as much apple pie as I can.  There was a stretch of three or four days where every meal I ate involved rotisserie chicken skin.  Try eating rotisserie chicken skin for every meal.  You’ll love it.  But now, in my early thirties, I just want to be young again, even if I can't afford apple pie and rotisserie chicken skin – I want to be young and carefree, without real responsibilities.  Greener grass.  Plus, I have this idea that if I could go back, everything would be halcyon.  I wouldn’t feel pain, and I’d take advantage of all of the opportunities thrown at me.  I’d be able to woo Annabelle Fryer again.  I’d run faster, stretch out my arms farther. . . . And one fine morning
Eventually I get to the point where I see this as a painful opportunity to look at my life, see what paths are open to me, and see which are the ones I want to follow or should try to blaze.  What could I do now that I’d regret not doing later?  I suppose I should feel fortunate about this as an opportunity, but really, I can’t help but regret what I did not do, the paths I didn’t take. 
One path I did take recently was an $18 cheeseburger at Virtue Feed & Grain in Alexandria, Virginia.  I wish I could say it wasn’t worth it – that it was mediocre, that the bread wasn’t perfect, the meat wasn’t juicy, the cheese not perfectly matched, the fries were cold and soggy, but none of those things were true.  This burger was worth every penny I spent on it, and I am glad I took that path. Plus, I was with great friends, and now the husband of them is going to start using a straight razor, which is exciting.  So that path - the $18 cheeseburger at Virtue - is a good path to take if you can. 
But there are still other paths I wish I’d taken.  Over the next few days, I’m going to think about how I want to live my life, and the “Raymond K. Hessel” things I want to do.  Who knows – you might hear about some of them.  
Virtue Feed & Grain on Urbanspoon